Olduvai

“Three million years time can hardly be conceived by human brain, nevertheless here it can be guessed, from the sense of primitive and wildness spreading out from these stones”

 

Ngorongoro is not famous only for its scenic beauty and wildlife. It is the home of the world’s most famous palaeo-anthropological sites, the Olduvai Gorge. The name Olduvai is a misspelling of the Maasai word ‘oldupaai’ meaning the place of wild sisal. The Gorge, which is about 40 km long, lies at the border with Serengeti National Park and is one of the tourist stopping points en route to and from the Serengeti.


Its treasure, the fossils, was accidentally discovered by the German entomologist Professor Kattwinkel, in 1911, when he entered the gorge in pursuit of a butterfly. He stumbled on an abundance of fossil bones and took samples of these to Berlin where they were identified as those of an extinct three-toed horse. Shortly after this discovery, in 1913, Prof. Hans Reck, a geologist, organised his first expedition to Olduvai. During a visit to Berlin, Dr Louis Leakey, a Kenyan-born archaeologist, saw the collection and in 1931 organised an expedition to the Gorge with Prof. Reck. In 1959, Dr Mary Leakey, the wife, discovered the first hominid skull “Zinjanthropus” or the ‘Nutcracker Man’, now renamed Australopithecus boisei, who lived 1.75 million years ago.


It has been claimed that no other site has produced stone tools, animal bones and hominid remains so precisely associated in such a well preserved environment, and covering such a vast time span. The 3.75 million year-old fossilised hominid footprints found by Dr Mary Leakey in 1975 at nearby Laetoli (20 km from Olduvai) are a proof that these pre-humans walked upright.


The sense of primitive spreading out from all Africa is here materialised in irrefutable traces preserved in the Museum.